Batgirl (Barbara Gordon)

Barbara Gordon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Barbara as Oracle.
Promotional art for Birds of Prey #58 (2003).
Art by Ed Benes.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance as Batgirl:
Detective Comics #359
(January 1967)
as Oracle:
Suicide Squad #23
(January 1989)
Created by Gardner Fox
Carmine Infantino
In story information
Alter ego Barbara Gordon
Team affiliations Birds of Prey
Batman Family
Seven Soldiers of Victory
Suicide Squad
Justice League
Notable aliases Batgirl, Amy Beddoes
Abilities Skilled martial artist,
Genius-level intellect;

  • Superb hacker
  • Skilled detective
  • Photographic memory

Barbara “Babs” Gordon is a fictional character appearing in comic books published by DC Comics and in related media, created by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino. From 1966 to 1988, she was the superheroine Batgirl; since 1989 she has been known as Oracle. Barbara Gordon made her first comic book appearance in a story published in Detective Comics #359 titled “The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl” (1966, with a 1967 cover date).

As Batgirl, Barbara Gordon has been described as one of the most popular characters to appear during the Silver Age of Comic Books[1] and is also regarded as a pop culture icon due to her appearances in the Batman television series of the late 1960s and continued media exposure.[2] The Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl has been adapted into all media relating to the Batman franchise, including merchandise, television, animation, and feature film. During the early 1970s, the character was also used as an advocate for women’s rights.[3]

Following the editorial retirement of the character’s Batgirl persona in 1988, Alan Moore’s graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke depicts the Joker shooting Gordon through the spinal cord in her civilian identity and leaving her a paraplegic. Although Gordon would no longer resume her role as Batgirl in subsequent stories, editor Kim Yale and writer John Ostrander soon established the character as an information broker code-named Oracle, providing intelligence and computer hacking services to assist other superheroes. The character first appeared as Oracle as of Suicide Squad #23 (1989).

The character’s progression from Batgirl to Oracle became a point of controversy among critics and commentators.[4] Although some observers have argued for the character’s mobility to be restored, others have come to identify her persona as Oracle to be a pioneer- serving as an icon for people living with disabilities. The character’s modern incarnation as Oracle stars in the comic book series Birds of Prey as the leader of a team of predominately female crimefighters. The series depicts her as a great intellect uninhibited by her paralysis, skilled in the martial art of eskrima.


  • 1 Publication history
    • 1.1 Batgirl (1966–1988)
    • 1.2 Batman: The Killing Joke (1988)
    • 1.3 Oracle (1988–present)
    • 1.4 Critical and editorial commentary
  • 2 Fictional character biography
    • 2.1 Silver Age
    • 2.2 Bronze Age
    • 2.3 Modern Age: Exit Batgirl, enter Oracle
    • 2.4 Birds of Prey
  • 3 Powers and abilities
    • 3.1 Martial artistry
    • 3.2 Technological skills
    • 3.3 Information broker
  • 4 Adaptations into other media
    • 4.1 Television
    • 4.2 Animation
  • 5 Collected editions
  • 6 See also
  • 7 Notes
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links

Publication history

Batgirl (1966–1988)

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The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl. Cover by Carmine Infantino & Murphy Anderson.

Editor Julius Schwartz claimed that when planning the new Batgirl’s comic book debut, he had considered the character to be a vehicle that might attract a female viewership to the Batman television series of the sixties.[5] When producers William Dozier and Howie Horowitz saw rough concept artwork by artist Carmine Infantino during a visit to DC offices, they optioned the character in a bid to help sell a third season to the ABC television network.[6] Actress Yvonne Craig portrayed the character in the show’s third season.[7] When interviewed on his involvement with creating Batgirl, Infantino states-

Batgirl came up in the mid-’60s. The “Batman” TV producer called Julie and said Catwoman was a hit, could we come up with more female characters? Julie called me and asked me to do that. I came up with Batgirl, Poison Ivy and one I called the Grey Fox, which Julie didn’t like as much. Bob Kane had had a Bat-Girl for about three stories in the ’50s but she had nothing to do with a bat. She was like a pesky girl version of Robin. I knew we could do a lot better, so Julie and I came up with the real Batgirl, who was so popular she almost got her own TV show.[8]

Barbara Gordon and alter ego Batgirl debuted in Detective Comics #359 (cover-dated 1967, although the comic was actually released in late 1966)[9] as the daughter of Gotham City’s Police Commissioner James Gordon. Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl had been preceded by an earlier Bat-Girl character, which was depicted as niece and sidekick to Batwoman. Gordon exceeded these earlier figures in popularity, and readers requested for her to appear in other titles. In an open letter to readership in Detective Comics #417 (1971),[10] DC responded to the fan-based acclaim and criticism of the new character:

I’d like to say a few words about the reaction some readers have to Batgirl. These are readers who remember Batwoman and the other Bat-girls from years back… They were there because romance seemed to be needed in Batman’s life. But thanks to the big change and a foresighted editor, these hapless females are gone for good. In their place stands a girl who is a capable crime-fighter, a far cry from Batwoman who constantly had to be rescued from Batman.[11]

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Yvonne Craig reading Detective Comics #359.

Following the comic book debut of Barbara Gordon, Craig also promoted the comic book incarnation of her character. The actress was featured in photo shoots reading her “favorite comic of all time,” “The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl.”[12] While actress Yvonne Craig as Batgirl appeared every week in the new season of Batman, DC Comics featured Batgirl on several covers of Detective Comics, often overshadowing Batman and Robin in order to promote the new heroine. On the cover of Detective Comics #369, Batgirl argues with Batman over whose sidekick Robin should be.[13][14][15]

Batgirl became a lighthearted departure from the tortured characters of Batman and Robin, each depicted as fighting crime to avenge the death of their parents. Gordon’s motivation for crime fighting was written as being completely altruistic and, unlike Batwoman and Bat-Girl, independent of a male superhero. In her civilian identity, Dr. Barbara Gordon Ph.D. is not only depicted as an independent woman with a doctorate in library science, she is head of Gotham City public library; “presumably one of the largest public libraries in the DC Comics version of reality.”[1] The character’s civilian career as a library professional, coupled with her alter-ego as a crimefighter is considered to be symbolic of the women’s empowerment movement of the 1960s.[16]

Batgirl continued to appear in DC Comics publications throughout the late sixties and seventies as a supporting character in Detective Comics, in addition to guest appearances in various titles such as Justice League of America,[17] World’s Finest Comics,[18] The Brave and the Bold,[19] Action Comics[20] and Superman.[21] The character was also given a starring role in DC’s Batman Family comic book which debuted in 1975.[22] The original Robin Dick Grayson became her partner in the series and the two were frequently referred to as the “Dynamic Duo: Batgirl & Robin.” Although this series ended after three years of publication,[23] Batgirl continued to appear in back up stories published in Detective Comics until DC officially retired the heroine in the one-shot comic Batgirl Special #1 (1988).[24] Although permanently retired, Barbara Gordon’s incarnation as Batgirl remains one of the most popular and high profile characters of the Silver Age of Comic Books.[1]

Batman: The Killing Joke (1988)

Batman: The Killing Joke
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The Joker critically injures Barbara Gordon in Batman: The Killing Joke.

During the early eighties, Batman editors sporadically put Batgirl into retirement; the character resumed her role for special cases. In 1988, Alan Moore discussed writing The Killing Joke with editor Len Wein, and the two agreed that Barbara Gordon, currently in retirement, was disposable enough for the character’s career to come to a permanent end.

Within the graphic novel, the Joker shoots and paralyzes Gordon, in a deliberate attempt to drive her father Commissioner Gordon insane. Batman captures the Joker, but Gordon becomes permanently confined to a wheelchair. Although events in The Killing Joke exert a great impact on the character, the story has little to do with Gordon.[25] She is deployed as a plot device to cement the Joker’s vendetta against Commissioner Gordon and Batman. Critical reception of The Killing Joke has been mixed — while some commentators have been appalled by the treatment of Barbara Gordon, others have regarded The Killing Joke as one of the greatest Batman stories of all time.[26]

Despite Moore’s writing, Valerie D’Orazio, a former editor at Acclaim Comics and DC Comics has denounced the book, citing “It doesn’t take the perspective of a woman into account. It doesn’t take into account that some women might be so very disgusted with the book [and] what happens to Barbara Gordon in it.”[27] In response, Laura Hudson, Senior editor of Comic Foundry Magazine comments, “You’re supposed to be disgusted with what happens to Barbara Gordon…because it’s disgusting…As a woman and as an adult, I can deal with fictional characters performing reprehensible acts towards women… When they’re used not gratuitously but for a purpose, as I believe they were in The Killing Joke, that’s exactly what they’re supposed to do.”[28] Following the release of the graphic novel, comic book editor and writer Kim Yale discussed how distasteful she found the treatment of Barbara Gordon with her husband, fellow comic writer John Ostrander. Rather than allow the character to fall into obscurity, the two decided to revive her as a character living with a disability.[29]

Oracle (1988–present)

Both Yale and Ostrander would oversee the development of Barbara Gordon’s new persona as Oracle for the next several years.[29] The character made her first comic book appearance as Oracle in Suicide Squad #23, anonymously offering her services to the government’s Task Force X.[30] In the following two years, Oracle, under pen of Ostander and Yale, made guest appearances in various DC titles until her identity was revealed to be Barbara Gordon in Suicide Squad #38 (1990) and she officially becomes a member of the Squad in issue #48 following an invitation from fictional government agent Amanda Waller. In 1992, Dennis O’Neil gave Barbara Gordon’s Oracle a starring role in Batman: Sword of Azrael #1, where she became Batman’s sole source of information. This newly forged partnership established Oracle’s status as Batman’s intellectual equal.[31]

The success of Chuck Dixon’s Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey (1996)[32] led to the comic series Birds of Prey starring the two title characters. Kim Yale and John Ostrander tell the origin of Oracle in “Oracle: Year One,” a story arc contained in Batman Chronicles #5. Since the launch of Birds of Prey, the Oracle character has become a high-profile figure in the DC Comics universe – moving beyond her ties to the Batman Family and forging alliances with groups such as Justice League of America. Gail Simone took over as writer of Birds of Prey with issue #56, taking the series in a “Bold New Direction!” In an interview with Columnist Jennifer Contino, Simone explains her fondness of Barbara Gordon:

Kim Yale and John Ostrander picked up the character and made her into a brilliant master computer operator and one of the most fascinating characters in comics. From there, Chuck Dixon did wonderful things with her in his Birds of Prey run…She’s fantastic because even just sitting in a chair in a dark room by herself, she’s tremendously compelling. The DCU without her would be a much less interesting place.[33]

Throughout the course of the character’s history, Barbara Gordon’s intelligence has been one of the character’s defining attributes. According to BusinessWeek, Oracle is listed as one of the top ten most intelligent fictional superheroes appearing in American comics and is the only female character to appear on the list.[34]

Critical and editorial commentary

Despite the establishment of Gordon’s persona as Oracle, some observers have argued for the character’s mobility to be restored.[35] Reacting to Batman: The Killing Joke and Barbara Gordon’s later character development as Oracle in Batman: Gotham Knights, Ray Tate, a reviewer at Comics Bulletin, writes,

Let’s get this out of the way first. There is absolutely no reason why Barbara Gordon should be in a wheelchair. Alan Moore and Brian Bolland meant The Killing Joke as an imaginary tale dealing with the iconography of Batman and the Joker…[Batman] himself is a certifiable genius in biochemistry. There are countless examples of Batman employing that which is only theoretical in his fight against crime. His knowledge of stem cell technology should surpass that of the real world. There is simply no reason for Barbara Gordon to be confined to that wheelchair.[36]

Regarding Gordon’s representation as a character living with a disability, and her effectiveness as a hero compared to her incarnation as Batgirl, Tate comments,

It’s ridiculous to think somebody wakes up thinking how lucky they are to be confined to a wheelchair, and yet the attitude around DC and among the fans is that Oracle is the better character over Batgirl because of her handicap. Rubbish. Batgirl has fought more crime and done more to aid Batman as Batgirl than she has as Oracle. Batgirl has saved Batman’s life on numerous occasions. Oracle has not. Barbara in this incarnation is not a bad character, but she is not better because she no longer hunts the night in cape and cowl.[36]

Alex Ross and Paul Dini have made attempts to return the character to her original conception. Ross explains in an interview:

Paul Dini had this idea of putting Barbara Gordon in the Lazarus Pit to revive her…I thought it was a great idea, and we pitched then-Batman editor Denny O’Neil with these drawings of that costume design. The idea of using the red instead of the traditional yellow was meant to invoke the idea that coming from the Lazarus Pit, she was in a way, more compromised as a character…And…that went nowhere. Denny shot it down, because, according to him, everybody loves Barbara Gordon as Oracle and as a handicapped character. The theory was that DC didn’t have enough handicapped characters, so they weren’t going to do anything with Barbara as she was. And the design went into the drawer.”[37]

Kate Kane, the modern Batwoman introduced during 52,[38] wears a variant of Gordon’s Batgirl costume designed by Ross.[37] Some argue that the Barbara Gordon character provides a greater service to DC Comics and its readers in her current status, regardless of the events which preceded Oracle’s creation. DC Senior Vice President Dan DiDio comments, “Some stories… are so strong that undoing them would be a crime. The DCU would be a lesser place without Barry’s sacrifice, or the crippling of Barbara at the hands of the Joker.”[39] Although critical reception of Barbara Gordon’s evolution into Oracle have been mixed among critics and other observers, according to John Ostrander- “We have, over the years, on those occasions when I have worked with the character, gotten some letters from those who have disabilities of one stripe or another and all have been very supportive. I feel very proud for my part in creating Oracle.”[40] Ostrander has also spoken about the value of Oracle to both DC Comics and its fan base:

What makes the runaway success of the Oracle character more remarkable is that it began during an era where bleak heroes with big guns were ruling the day. Without much fanfare, Barbara Gordon has become the most popular handicapped character since Charles Xavier. In fact, Oracle’s nature as a handicapped superhero and a role model is almost never mentioned by the company or fans…There WAS some idea of her being a role model, I think… We wanted her to cope with what had happened to her and becoming, in many ways, more effective as Oracle than she ever was as Batgirl. And we knew that others with disabilities might look at her and feel good reading about her…I don’t think people ‘dance around’ her disabilities as they don’t want to focus on them but on her character. These shouldn’t be stories about a disabled person; they are stories about a compelling fascinating character who HAPPENS to be in a wheelchair and I think that’s correct. Barbara isn’t her handicap; there’s more to her than that.[40]

Fictional character biography

Silver Age

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Barbara Gordon’s classic Batgirl design drawn by Kevin Nowlan.

In her original adventures during the Silver Age of Comics, Batgirl is depicted as a librarian by day, and a spirited crimefighter by night. In her debut story, while driving to a costume ball dressed as a female version of Batman, Barbara Gordon intervenes in a kidnapping attempt on Bruce Wayne by the villainous Killer Moth, attracting the Dark Knight’s attention and leading to a crime-fighting career. After a handful of guest appearances in Batman stories, she was given her own back-up strip in Detective Comics. The character was fleshed out considerably, with the shy, mousy, bookworm version of Barbara Gordon giving way to a more modern, confident character. Devoid of her plain-Jane glasses and hair bun, Barbara dates a succession of boyfriends, including Vietnam-veteran-turned-private-investigator Jason Bard. In addition to her appearances in both Detective Comics and Batman, Batgirl made a guest appearance in World’s Finest Comics #169 (1967)[41] where she met Superman, Supergirl, Bat-Mite, and Mxyzptlk for the first time. She also fights alongside the Justice League of America against the villainous Queen Bee.[17] Supergirl and Batgirl encounter again in Adventure Comics #381 (1969)[20] when both heroines separately investigate a female criminal gang.

Her back-up stories appear sporadically in Detective Comics until the mid 1970s. Although she occasionally partners with Robin, she more frequently works with Jason Bard, a Vietnam War veteran with a chronic knee injury who becomes a private detective. Bard is a romantic interest of Barbara’s, as well. Batgirl reveals her secret identity to her father (who had already discovered it on his own), and serves as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She moves to Washington, D.C., intending to give up her career as Batgirl and in June 1972, appeared in a story entitled “Batgirl’s Last Case.”[42] Editor Julius Schwartz brought her back a year later in Superman #268 (1973),[43] in which she has a blind date with Clark Kent, establishing their friendship, and fights alongside Superman. Batgirl and Superman team up twice more, in Superman #279 and DC Comics Presents #19. Batgirl also guest-starred in other Superman related titles such as #453 of Adventure Comics, and in Superman Family #171, where she teams with Supergirl.

Bronze Age

In 1975, DC created the Batman Family comic book, which ran for 20 issues. Batgirl was one of the main features in the book, frequently teaming with Robin. Batgirl meets Batwoman in Batman Family #10, when the retired superheroine returns to crime-fighting. The two fight Killer Moth and Cavalier, and learn about each other’s secret identities.[44] When Batman Family ended at issue #20, stories featuring these characters were merged with Detective Comics, beginning with issue #481 in 1979, and Batgirl continued her adventures there. Even after the “Batman Family” feature left Detective Comics, Batgirl continued to appear in the back-up stories through issue #519 (October 1982).

Crisis on Infinite Earths,[45] a limited mini-series published in 1985, was written in order to reduce the complex history of DC Comics to a single continuity. Although Batgirl is a featured character, her role is relatively small- she delivers Supergirl’s eulogy at the conclusion of the story.[46] The conclusion of Crisis on Infinite Earths changed DC Universe continuity in many ways. Following the reboot, Barbara Gordon is born to Roger and Thelma Gordon, and she is Jim Gordon’s niece/adopted daughter in current canon.

Post-Crisis, Supergirl does not arrive on Earth until Gordon has established herself as Oracle; many adventures she shared with Batgirl are now retroactively described as having been experienced by Power Girl. In Secret Origins #20: Batgirl and the Golden Age Dr. Mid-Nite (1987),[47] Barbara Gordon’s origin is rebooted by author Barbara Randal. Within the storyline, Gordon recounts the series of events that lead to her career as Batgirl, including her first encounter with Batman as a child, studying martial arts under the tutelage of a sensei, memorizing maps and blue prints of the city, excelling in academics in order to skip grades and pushing herself to become a star athlete.

Modern Age: Exit Batgirl, enter Oracle

The Modern Age of Comic Books had significant changes to the comic book industry as characters became darker and psychologically complex, abandoning the light-hearted themes of earlier ages. After her back-up series of stories ended, Barbara Gordon continued to be Batgirl, but increasingly felt inconsequential in a world filled with super-powered heroes. After capturing the Commorant in Batgirl Special #1 (1988),[24] Gordon retires her Batgirl persona. In Batman: The Killing Joke (1988), the Joker shoots Barbara, intending to drive her father James Gordon into madness.[48] The bullet severs her spine, permanently paralyzing her from the waist down. Gordon is grief-stricken upon learning the extent of her injuries, as is her ally and off-on again lover Dick Grayson, the original Robin currently known as Nightwing.

Initially, Gordon’s paralysis plunges her into a state of reactive depression. However, she soon realizes that her aptitude for and training in information sciences have provided her with tremendous skills that could be deployed to fight crime. In a world increasingly centered on technology and information, she possesses a genius-level intellect; photographic memory; deep knowledge of computers and electronics; expert skills as a hacker; and graduate training in library sciences.[47] One night, Gordon has a dream in which an all-knowing woman (similar to Oracle at Delphi of Greek mythology) has her own face, it’s then that she adopts “Oracle” as her codename. She serves as an information broker, gathering and disseminating intelligence to law enforcement organizations and members of the superhero community. In “Oracle: Year One,” Oracle also trains under the tutelage of Richard Dragon, one of DC’s premier martial artists, to engage in combat (using eskrima) from her wheelchair. She develops her upper-body strength and targeting skills with both firearms and batarangs.[49] In her second appearance as a hacker in the DC Comics universe, Oracle is featured in the 12-issue mini-series The Hacker Files (1993).[50]

In 2003, comic book authors Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon revised Barbara Gordon’s origin with the mini-series Batgirl: Year One.[51] Gordon is a highly gifted child having graduated from high school early, but initially desires to join law enforcement as opposed to vigilantism in the previous origin myths.

Birds of Prey

Birds of Prey (comic book)
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Cover to Birds of Prey: Of Like Minds featuring Oracle, Black Canary, and The Huntress. Author Gail Simone and Artist Ed Benes.

Following her paralysis and recovery from depression, Oracle founds the Birds of Prey, a team of female heroes, whom she employs as agents and extended members of the Batman team. After her unsuccessful partnership with Power Girl, Oracle later joins forces with the superheroine Black Canary.[52] During Chuck Dixon’s crossover series Hunt for Oracle,[53] Barbara Gordon and Dinah Lance meet in person and establish a long-term friendship. They form the nucleus of the Birds of Prey organization. While Oracle serves as the basic head of operations, Black Canary becomes her full-time employee and field agent.

During the 2004 cross-over event War Games,[54] Black Mask commandeers Oracle’s computers and satellites and engages in a fight to the death with Batman. In order to prevent Batman from killing his adversary, Oracle initiates the Clock Tower’s self-destruct sequence, provoking Batman to rescue her rather than continue the battle. This results in the destruction of Gordon’s home and headquarters in the clock tower. Subsequently, Oracle decides to move on, and leaves Gotham City altogether. She cuts her ties with Batman, and after a temporary world trip with her team, relocates to Metropolis.

In the events comprising Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey: Between Dark and Dawn (2005),[55] and Birds of Prey: The Battle Within (2005),[56] Oracle is possessed by arch-villain Brainiac, an artificial intelligence entity, in order to become a biological being. Although Oracle overpowers Brainiac and expels him from her body, the advanced virus delivered by him remains despite his absence. The virus steadily causes cybernetic attachments to sprout all over her body. Oracle develops cyberpathic powers that allow her to psychically interact with computer information systems. Although she loses these abilities after the virus is rendered dormant following an operation by Doctor Mid-Nite, she discovers she can move her toes. However, this proves to be short-lived; Gordon remains paralyzed.

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Oracle as she appears infected with the Brainiac virus. Art by Adriana Melo.

During the company wide cross-over Infinite Crisis (2005),[57] Oracle teams with the Martian Manhunter in Metropolis to coordinate a counterstrike to the Secret Society’s global jailbreak. The renewed romance between Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson is also cut short by the Infinite Crisis storyline.[58] When DC continuity jumps forward one year after the events of Infinite Crisis, Oracle and her team continue to work in Metropolis. Oracle works with Batman, although not on a regular basis as before. Oracle continues to lead the Birds of Prey, and expandes the ranks of the operation. In Birds of Prey #99, Black Canary leaves the team and The Huntress becomes the team’s de facto field leader, while Big Barda has been brought in as the group’s heavy-hitter alongside a larger, rotating roster; Oracle also makes an attempt to reforge her alliance with Power Girl, however, when Oracle invites her to rejoin the team, she replies that she’ll do so “when Hell freezes over.”[59] In “Whitewater,” Gail Simone’s final story arc on Birds of Prey (2007),[60] Oracle and her team struggle for power with Spy Smasher, a government agent who has taken over the Birds of Prey organization. Eventually, Spy Smasher is forced to admit her defeat and returns control of the Birds of Prey organization to Oracle. At the conclusion of the arc, Oracle also adopts Misfit into the Birds of Prey.

In Countdown (2007),[61] Oracle dispatches the Question and Batwoman to capture Trickster and Piper following their role in the murder of the Flash. She struggles to keep the identities of the world’s heroes from being stolen and coordinates the response to a global crisis engineered by the Calculator, a villainous hacker and information broker. In issue #5 of the comic book series The All-New Booster Gold (2007),[62] the title hero is given the mission of traveling back in time in order to prevent “a tragedy that he discovers never should’ve happened — the Joker shooting and paralyzing Barbara Gordon, Batgirl.”[63] Although Booster Gold makes several attempts to prevent the events which took place in Batman: The Killing Joke, he ultimately fails and Barbara Gordon’s chronological history remains unchanged.

Powers and abilities

Martial artistry

According to the character’s fictional biography, Barbara Gordon took numerous self-defense classes in judo and karate prior to her tenure as Batgirl and is described as being a “star athlete.”[47] Following the events of The Killing Joke, Barbara Gordon continued to train in the martial arts as Oracle, despite being paralyzed from the waist down. She has extensive skills with eskrima fighting sticks, small firearms and batarangs; she customarily keeps a pair of eskrima sticks stored in the armrests of her wheelchair as a contingency.

Technological skills

Prior to the character’s career as a vigilante, Barbara Gordon developed many technological skills, including vast knowledge of computers and electronics, expert skills as a hacker, and graduate training in library sciences. Gordon is also written as having a genius-level intellect and naturally possessing a photographic memory.[64] Like Batman, Barbara Gordon originally used a wide variety of computer electronics and gadgets during her early adventures as Batgirl. These included an infrared scanner built into the cowl of her costume, various bat-inspired weaponry and the “Batgirl Cycle.” According to Gail Simone, Oracle maintains control over the twelve technologically advanced satellites that were created by Lex Luthor during his tenure as President of the United States.[65]

Information broker

Oracle places her considerable skills and knowledge at the disposal of many of the DC universe’s heroes.[64] She is a skilled hacker, capable of retrieving and dispersing information from private satellites, military installations, government files, and the properties of Lex Luthor.[66] Batman, himself a genius with a wide knowledge base and access to vast information resources, routinely consults Oracle for assistance.

Adaptations into other media

Barbara Gordon in other media

Since the character’s debut in 1966, Barbara Gordon has been adapted in live action television series such as Batman[67] and Birds of Prey,[68] as well as animated television series such as Batman: The Animated Series,[69] The New Batman Adventures,[70] and The Batman[71] in her alter-egos as both Batgirl and Oracle. Barbara Gordon was also the inspiration for the Barbara Wilson Batgirl that was portrayed by actress Alicia Silverstone in the live action film Batman & Robin.[72]


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Yvonne Craig as Batgirl.

When the Batman television series of the 1960s sought to renew the program for a third season, DC editor Julius Schwartz along with artist Carmine Infantino created the “new” Batgirl—Barbara Gordon—at the explicit request of television producer William Dozier.[73] Batgirl’s addition to the comic book medium was inspired to tie in with the television program in order to bring in a female audience. Yvonne Craig was cast as Batgirl after starring in a seven minute promotional short which was presented to the ABC television network.[74] Although Yvonne Craig’s addition to the cast was able to renew the program for a third season, it did not save the series from cancellation.[75] In 1972, three years after the Batman television series ended, Craig appeared again as Batgirl in a public service announcement for the United States Department of Labor advocating equal pay.[3] In an interview with Femme Fatales Magazine (1998), Craig describes her experience playing the comic book icon as one of her best experiences.[76] According to Craig, her portrayal as Batgirl remains a symbol for women’s empowerment.

I meet young women who say Batgirl was their role model… They say its because it was the first time they ever felt girls could do the same things guys could do, and sometimes better. I think that’s lovely.[76]

In 2002, Warner Bros. produced the television series Birds of Prey, loosely based on the comic book series of the same name.[77] Dina Meyer became the first actress to portray Barbara Gordon as Oracle.


Barbara Gordon made her animated debut as Batgirl in the Filmation animated series Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder (originally known as The Batman/Superman Hour) which originally aired on CBS in 1968.[78] Batgirl also played a supporting role in The New Adventures of Batman, also produced by Filmation and aired on CBS in 1977.[79]

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Batgirl in Batman: The Animated Series.

During the 1990s – after the Batman franchise experienced a revitalization due to the commercial success of Tim Burton’s feature film Batman – Barbara Gordon was adapted into the series of animated television programs produced by Warner Bros. Animation collectively known as Bruce Timm and Paul Dini’s DC animated universe. These series of animated programs began with Batman: The Animated Series which debuted on the Fox network in 1992, first voiced by Melissa Gilbert. Barbara Gordon in this continuity, made her first appearance in the two part episode “Heart of Steel.”[80] In the following season, Gordon became Batgirl in the two part episode “Shadow of the Bat” (1993).[69] In the character’s third appearance, Barbara Gordon played a starring role in the series finale “Batgirl Returns” (1994).[81] Following the launch of The WB network and at the request of Warner Bros. Entertainment, Batgirl was given a recurring role in The New Batman Adventures, voiced by Tara Strong (1997),[82] and also made a brief cameo appearance in the Justice League episode “The Savage Time” (2002).[83] In 1999, The WB premiered the animated television series Batman Beyond, which conforms to the continuity of the DCAU, yet depicts a future in which Bruce Wayne has retired as Batman. The elder Barbara Gordon in this series also retired her Batgirl persona and serves as Police Commissioner of Gotham City.[84]

Although the DCAU did not end until the finale of Justice League Unlimited in 2006, Warner Bros. Animation launched a new animated series titled The Batman in 2004 which established its own continuity. Barbara Gordon was introduced as Batgirl in the two part episode “Batgirl Begins” (2005).[71] This series also marked the animated debut of Barbara Gordon as Oracle with the futuristic episode “Artifacts” (2007).[85]

Collected editions

  • Showcase Presents: Batgirl, Vol. 1 ISBN 1401213677; collects Batman and Detective comics (1967–1998) (Release date 2007) Softcover
  • Batman: Batgirl (1997) ISBN 978-1563893056
  • Batman: The Killing Joke (1988) ISBN 0930289455
  • Batman: Thrillkiller ISBN 1563894246; collects Thrillkiller: Batgirl & Robin and the ’62 special (1998)
  • Elseworld’s Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl (1998)
  • Birds of Prey (1999) ISBN 156389484X
  • Birds of Prey: Old Friends, New Enemies (2003) ISBN 1563899396
  • Batgirl: Year One (2003) ISBN 140120080X
  • Birds of Prey: Of Like Minds (2004) ISBN 140120192X
  • Birds of Prey: Sensei & Student (2005) ISBN 1401204341
  • Birds of Prey: Between Dark & Dawn (2006) ISBN 1401209408
  • Birds of Prey: The Battle Within (2006) ISBN 978-1401210960
  • Birds of Prey: Perfect Pitch (2007) ISBN 1401211917
  • Birds of Prey: Blood and Circuits (2007) ISBN 9781401213718

See also

  • Alternate versions of Barbara Gordon


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  • Daniels, Les. Batman: The Complete History. Chronicle Books, 2004. ISBN 0811842320
  • Daniels, Les. DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World’s Favorite Comic Book Heroes. Bulfinch, 1995. ISBN 0-821-22076-4
  • Arant, Wendi. Benefiel, Candace. The Image and Role of the Librarian. Haworth Press, 2002. ISBN 0789020998
  • Brooker, Will. Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2001. ISBN 0826413439
  • Nolen-Weathington, Eric. Modern Masters Volume 3: Bruce Timm. TwoMorrows Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1893905306

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